Posts Tagged ‘self-abandonment’

How to Tend Your Own Wound

The biggest turning point of my life came the day I realized that adults cannot be abandoned, they can only abandon themselves.

The love of my life, my best friend, my marital partner of almost 20 years had just abandoned me to be with another woman (out of the blue and without warning) and I was shattered.

I was in pain, terrified of the future, and drowning in self-doubt. But all of this torment was inflicted by self-abandonment. I was an adult, I realized, and I could not be abandoned because I could take care of myself.

Even emotionally? Yes, I had no other choice.

My task was to find a way to nurture this gaping wound that was tearing me apart. This meant that I had to stop my futile effort to “get rid of the pain,” because in doing so, I would be ignoring the wound rather than embracing it. I didn’t want to ignore the sobbing inner child who beheld all of the hurt, fear, and doubt and cried out for love. There was nobody there but me to love this injured child. “Physician, tend thy own wound.”

I learned that once you make the realization that as an adult, you can only abandon yourself, you embark on a whole new journey which begins with connecting to yourself. You finally take responsibility for your life.

You learn to tune into the primal pain of abandonment, rather than defending against it (which is what causes all of the problems). You commence a journey to the center of the self where you discover your connection to the universal core of what it means to be human. You discover your separate self. You adopt yourself. You commit to taking care of that self. As a whole person, you reach out for connection.

Why are we always abandoning one another? Because we are constantly defending against our own abandonment fears. We develop calluses around our wounds to make us numb. We become callused to our own and other people’s pain.

It is not the pain of abandonment, but the fact that we are constantly defending against it that causes us to be destructive to self and others. We constantly ward off abandonment by clinging to partners who aren’t good for us. Or we avoid relationships all together to avoid getting hurt. Or we pursue all the wrong partners and get abandoned over and over again. Or we over-merge with someone, become co-dependent, and lose ourselves. In our constant defense against abandonment, we deny, suppress, and repress our feelings, and what’s more, we displace it onto others.

This is what allows us to hurt one another and grow callused toward the world. This is how our abandonment wound is able to burrow deep within the self where it works insidiously to drain off our self esteem and erode our capacity for connection.

Abandonment brings us to the human condition. It is a humbling experience. Once we learn to have compassion toward ourselves, we stop shaming ourselves for not being able to snap out of the pain and we open up more compassionately to our loved ones and to the world. It is no longer possible to remain aloof, non-committal, numb to the suffering in the world.

When you tune in to administer to your deepest feelings and needs, know that you are moving in the direction, not of self-involvement, but of love and connection. This extends to love for the world and all of its abandoned people.

Journeying to the center of the self is not an end, but a beginning of an increasing compassion and energy output toward the world. If we can slow down global warming, and yet do not come together to take action to prevent it, then we are abandoning ourselves and each other.

We have public examples. Celebrities (i.e. Oprah, Jolie) who reach out to embrace the world are the ones who have journeyed to the center of the self and back. They have stopped defending against their own wounds, and instead have embraced their humanness with humility and self-compassion, and have journeyed back to embrace the world.

They are not Barbie dolls whose feelings and needs were always protected and tended to by doting parents, or who never suffered deprivation, humiliation, shame, betrayal, isolation – abandonment. On the contrary, they had to learn how to rise from the ashes of their own wounds.

The self, if it is to be healthy and thriving, serves as a bridge connecting outward to the world. That is why this process leads to love and a better world.

Do You Prefer Immediate Gratification to Accomplishment?

You mean I have to make a choice? Yes, usually.

So many of us have dreams, hopes, and goals but we keep going in circles instead of taking productive steps toward achieving them. As time goes on, they seem to slip further and further into the distance. At some point they seem all but lost – lost dreams, lost hopes, lost goals.

This doesn’t have to be. Deconstruct it. You will find Immediate Gratification as the nemesis.

Immediate Gratification is a self esteem issue. People who hold their hopes and dreams as important (self-important) and themselves as capable (self-confident) are the ones who find the strength to overcome their need for Immediate Gratification and take the necessary steps to tackle their goals.

What caused your self-importance and self-confidence to erode and your goals to slip further into dreamland in the first place?

The underlying source is unresolved abandonment. Abandonment is a cumulative wound that contains all of the losses, slights, rejections, and disappointments from childhood and beyond. This primal wound is located deep within the self (where our most tender feelings reside) where it festers from within to interfere in our relationships and our lives.

The abandonment wound silently emits a dense emotional gas that stupefies our sensibilities about our own human potential and the direction in which we are taking our lives.

This is why I’m always advocating abandonment recovery. In adulthood, the only real abandonment is self-abandonment. A huge component of healing the primal abandonment wound is recognizing the ways in which Immediate Gratification has caused us to abandon our hopes and dreams. Recovery involves overcoming the self-sabotage. I’m always saying it – there are no magic bullets with this primal wound. Abandonment recovery involves action.

You mean I have to give up my beloved buttered toast every morning to stay in shape? That one’s a no brainer, Usually Immediate Gratification is a more subtle saboteur.

Take a personal example from my own life. I’d like to practice learning French (it would be good brain training) (it would make travel more enjoyable). I already know a few (very few) preliminaries of French, but my vocabulary is weak. I know something simple I could do to learn French, but I don’t seem to get to it: What would really work (with my insane schedule) would be to create a daily regimen (first thing in the morning) in which I write one sentence in French every day, incorporating new vocabulary words (never mind the grammar). Think of how much more proficient I’d be in a year – 365 sentences later.


First thing in the morning, I’ve gotten into the habit of walking to a local coffee shop and reading the newspaper – far removed from my French dictionary and Journal.

I keep postponing the French sentence in favor of experiencing the passive pleasure of leafing through the paper. This thing has become such a habit, it’s functioning more like a ritual or an addiction than a chosen pastime.

At any rate, I’m very aware that I could write the French sentence first and then take the walk. So why haven’t I done it? Because I haven’t been able to postpone my need for Immediate Gratification. So you see, I’ve been preferring Immediate Gratification to accomplishment.

Spelling it out like this makes my own example sound extremely obvious and insignificant – but these little things add up, and before we know it, we are awash in unrealized hopes and dreams.

Believe me, this stuff is so easy to rationalize, that I rarely think about my plan to write a daily French sentence when I’m rushing out the door first thing to take my walk.

In fact, it only occurred to me this morning (at the coffee shop, having finished the paper) – that this is an example of preferring Immediate Gratification to Accomplishment. It is only this minute that I realize how little (beyond pleasure) I gain from the paper, and how much I would gain from becoming more proficient in French – and that one is interfering with the other.

So, having come out of denial, I can finally see the issues at play. Now I have a plan to fix this.

Identifying our abandoned goals in a group is a high energy activity in my workshops. They members feed off each other—and everyone’s resolve gets stronger and stronger. The excitement hits the roof as they begin creating their own individual plans. You can just see the newfound hope and the bright futures– all of these little forsaken dreams and goals getting taken care of.

Yes, working toward your goals reverses self-abandonment and helps to heal the primal wound.

To achieve a goal, you probably have to borrow the time and energy from something you’re currently doing – some passive pleasure to which you’ve become habituated (addicted). What might that be? What do you need to postpone for a few minutes or an hour longer every day in order to work systematically toward a goal? Your habit of watching television? Napping? Sleeping late? Eating? Talking on the phone?

You can still have your pleasures. Just don’t be a slave to Immediate Gratification to the extent that you are self-indulgent instead of self-nurturing. Make a choice.